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Malawi Law Society sues registrar over party funding

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Malawi Law Society (MLS) has dragged to court Registrar of Companies Chikumbutso Namelo, in his capacity as Registrar of Political Parties, for failing to provide records of political financing in line with the Political Parties Act of 2018.

MLS wrote Namelo twice last year—on July 20 and September 30—asking for records of political party funding and the Ministry of Justice’s state of compliance with the Act on the creation of an independent office of Registrar of Political Parties.

A court order, dated May 19 2022—which The daily Times has seen— allows MLS to commence judicial review against Registrar of Companies Namelo, who is also acting as Registrar of Political Parties.

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“Upon reading the sworn statement of Patrick Gray Mpaka and Chrispin Chimwemwe Ngunde supporting the said application and grounds on permission sought, it is hereby ordered and directed that the claimants do have permission to apply for judicial review of the defendant’s decision to omit (or the failure of the respondent in relation to exercise of public functions under the Political Parities Act 2018) to supply the claimants within 15 days without undue delay thereafter information on political party funding as requested in the claimants’ letters of 20th July 2021 and 30th September 2021,” the order reads.

The development follows questions from stakeholders on whether the country’s political parties are complying with provisions of the Act in declaring donations they receive, maintaining a separate bank account for the donations and providing audited financial records to the registrar.

The judicial review form, which has been filed with MLS’ application, indicates that, among other things, the lawyers’ body wants the court to declare that the Registrar of Political Parties is bound to follow Section 37 of the Constitution and Section 36 of the Political Parties Act and that, in accordance with the law, a public officer in the position of Registrar of Political Parties is expected to deliver feedback to an applicant for information under the Political Parties Act within 15 days without undue delay.

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MLS, therefore, wants the court to direct the registrar to respond to the demands for information as requested in their two letters.

Namelo could not be reached on his mobile phone for a comment while Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo was said to be in a meeting.

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